The continual availability of news on laptops, TV’s and smartphones makes us perpetual witnesses to complex situations across the globe. We can feel unease each day through the confrontation with presumed poverty and desperation. Guilty Landscapes transports images of uneasy responsibility into the white cube of a gallery. In an interactive video installation, the protagonists look directly at the museum visitor, providing a framework for each viewer to scrutinize their own feelings of discomfort. What if the news watches you back?
The gallery in the museum is empty. We see a landscape projected on a large wall, an image of an area in need, or a place evoking feelings of dependency. As soon as a viewer steps into the gallery a performer appears in the video projection and looks at the viewer. The viewer becomes an integral part of the installation, his behavior in the gallery influences the acts of the performer on screen and vice versa. That which the viewer initially thinks to be a pre-recorded video appears to be a live connection with a distant stranger.
Guilty Landscapes challenges feelings of responsibility, guilt and shame. It proposes the question: does the context determine the ethos of the encounter, or vice versa? The project investigates complexes such as post-colonial guilt, the guilt of wealth and social hyper-awareness, while asking whether is it possible to reverse such relative social positions.
"Did I feel pity, shame or admiration? After all she looked proud and happy, not anxious or tormented. Not exactly a victim."
'Dance with you secretly', ('Stiekem met je gedanst'), Annette Embrechts in De Volkskrant (20-10-2016)read the article (in Dutch)
"Guilty Landscapes offers visitors an experience that is moving yet at the same time daunting and where visitors are made aware of the empathic line usually drawn between people and their appearance or environment – before they become permeated by illusion."
'Abschied mit «Uncertainty»', Anja Quikert in Theater heute, p.31 (30-09-2016)read the article (in German)
"With his work the Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven scratches where it hurts, because that is the purpose of art".
'Disruption is the goal' ('Ontregeling is het doel'), Journalist Evelyne Coussens interviewed Verhoeven for the Flemmish newspaper De Morgen (28-09-2016)read the article (in Dutch)
"That virtual meeting with someone we only know in our daily life as a character in a ‘bad news’ item on the news is unnerving and beautiful at the same time. It confronts us with hellish places on earth that we prefer to deny exist, yet with those landscapes as the backdrop there is also room for an intimate moment with humanity."
'The spirit of Jeroen Bosch appears at the Boulevard theatre festival time and time again', Robbert van Heuven for Trouw (08-08-2016)read the review (in Dutch)
"As simple as it is refined, as deceptive as it is genuine. (...) Your feelings of guilt are jolted by the unexpected proximity during this first episode of Verhoeven’s series Guilty Landscapes."
'Minimum movement, maximum impact', Annette Embrechts for the Volkskrant (21-05-2016)read the review (in Dutch)
"Verhoeven’s moving film installation (...), as short as it is, is already one of the best experiences at the fourth edition of the fusion festival."
'Moving film installation by Dries Verhoeven at Spring', Francine van der Wiel for NRC Handelsblad (23-05-2016)read the review (in Dutch)
"This first episode is a short but impressive meeting in which Verhoeven unravels the role of the viewer – not only within the context of this video performance but on a wider scale."
'Going beyond transience', Sander Janssens for Theaterkrant.nl (20-05-2016)read the review (in Dutch)
"The meeting should toss gratuitous assumptions overboard, or in any case, provide nuances."
'Theatre that confronts you with disasters', Joke Beeckmans for NRC Handelsblad (18-05-2016)read the article (in Dutch)
radio and television
Podium on Tour – NTR (21-08-2016)
Andrew Makkinga made an item for the tv-program Podium on Tour, after having seen the installatie on Boulevard Theatre Festival in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Theater: Ein Fest! – ZDF (19-06-2016)
The German tv-program Theater: Ein Fest! reported from SPRING Festival. Presenter Nina Sonnenberg saw Guilty Landscapes and spoke with Verhoeven afterwards.
Nooit meer slapen (No more sleep) – VPRO Radio (18-05-2016)
During the VPRO radio program ‘Nooit meer slapen’, the guest decides the topic of conversation by means of drawing cards with challenging questions. There is only one condition: answer honestly. Verhoeven spoke about the video installation Guilty Landscapes on the verge of SPRING Festival 2016.
“People sometimes ask me about the how and why of a work. But when I hear myself talking, I realise that which is ambiguous in the piece suddenly seems unambiguous through my words, too simple, maybe even a veiled appeal for approval”.
Verhoeven decided to keep his mouth shut more often and share texts that have inspired him in the creative process or writings by journalists/writers reflecting on the work itself. Viewers who want clarification could possibly be guided on their way by these texts.
The visitors of episode 1 were offered two fragments of ‘Regarding the pain of others’ by Susan Sontag.
Visitors of episodes 2 & 3 were offered a text by the Dutch journalist/author Dirk Vis, ‘Sharing the pain of Avatars’.
concept Dries Verhoeven
production Studio Dries Verhoeven
photography Willem Popelier, Kevin McElvaney
video registration Thorsten Alofs, Christopher Hewitt
co-commissioned by SPRING Festival Utrecht (NL), Foreign Affairs Berlijn (DE), Theaterfestival Boulevard ’s-Hertogenbosch (NL) and MU Eindhoven (NL).
Guilty Landscapes is made possible thanks to the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds / Het Zilveren Lint Fonds and VSBfonds.